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WICKED SINNER

Dangerous Love #2

A gripping, heart-pounding romance from USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy about a former FBI agent who will do anything it takes to protect his ex, or risk losing her for good…

Asher Sullivan was once Remy Brennan’s entire world–until he broke her heart into a million pieces. So when Asher crashes her wedding, Remy is certain he’s come to claim her. To make her his again. Instead, it turns out Remy’s groom is a con man scheming for her inheritance. Now all she’s left with is an empty bank account, a serious case of lust for her gorgeous ex…and a duffel bag of cold, hard cash that might just fix all her problems.

Detective Asher Sullivan has always protected Remy. So when dangerous criminals start threatening her, Asher’s most primitive instincts take over. Sticking by Remy’s side means Asher is finally able to make amends for leaving her all those years ago. And soon they’re giving in to their wicked, insatiable need. But just as Asher gets his second chance, a secret Remy is keeping could rip her away from him…forever.

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OUT OCTOBER 15, 2019

"Stacey Kennedy turns up the heat and keeps us wanting more.”
#1 New York Times bestselling author Meredith Wild

Excerpt

“Today we are gathered here to celebrate Damon Lane and Remy Brennan as they proclaim their love and commitment to the world.”

Asher Sullivan wasn’t sitting in the church in his hometown of Stoney Creek to celebrate. He was in the fifth pew back from where the only woman he ever loved stood, ready to marry someone else. She wore a strapless gown, fitting her five-foot-five frame to pure perfection. Her long, blond, wavy hair flowed down her back, and every time he looked into her big light green eyes, she took his breath away. She’d been with him since she was a freshman, and even back then, she’d been beautiful. Only now she was breathtaking and no longer his.

The bastard standing next to her, about to become her husband, Asher could do without. Especially considering Remy had no idea she was about to marry a con man. Or that this impending marriage was a sham to get Remy’s half-million-dollar inheritance that her beloved nana left for Remy when she passed away. Remy’s sweet grandmother who raised her from six years old had stipulated in her last will and testament that Remy would only gain her inheritance once she married.

Asher thrust a hand through his sandy-colored hair, ready to crawl out of his skin. There was no doubt the sweat trailing his spine showed through his white button-up. A pair of handcuffs poked his thigh through the pocket of his dark gray slacks, all but teasing him with anticipation to wrap them around Damon’s lowlife wrists. But Asher couldn’t act, not until the chief of police sent word that they’d received the arrest warrant.

“We are gathered to rejoice, with and for them, in the new life they now undertake together,” the minister called out in a smooth, nearly rhythmic voice.

Asher snorted. “What a load of shit.”

Heads turned and a few glares came Asher’s way, telling him he wasn’t as quiet as he’d hoped. Remy was meant to marry him, until Asher’s life fell apart when his mother committed suicide. Everything changed after that. Asher changed after that. At one point in his life, his mother was the mother everyone loved. She was cool and funny and had done everything right for Asher. That’s what made her death so hard. She deserved a good life, but what she got handed was a life married to an abusive alcoholic. Too many times, Asher wished he could go back to that day she downed a bottle of pills when his father left. Asher would have shown her she wasn’t as small and worthless as his bastard father made her feel. And he’d always regret that the only time he punched his father was the day of the funeral, telling him to never come back.

From that day on, Asher decided to never let love control him like it had controlled his mother. Love made people foolish. It made people forget the things they wanted out of life. And Asher couldn’t have given Remy what she wanted. She deserved the life his mother didn’t have. The life Asher had no idea how to give her. He’d left to give Remy the chance to find the life she deserved, and to salvage any strength that he had left in the darkest moment of his life. Only that’s not what happened.

Ten years later, he felt more lost than ever. That’s why he’d come back to Stoney Creek five years ago. He needed his hometown roots. His friends. The life he knew. Except that, for the first four years he was back, Remy barely acknowledged his existence. Of course, he understood. He’d heard while in Washington that she’d gone into a deep depression after her nana passed away soon after Asher left. Something Asher hadn’t learned until much later. She’d dropped out of college and had ended up working as a bartender. She hadn’t dated anyone. She’d given up completely on all the dreams she’d once had about opening her own New Age shop. And Asher knew that most of that was his fault. He’d set the crumbling of her life into motion the day he left her.

After he’d come home, he’d taken it slow, never pushing, giving her the time she needed to forgive him. They might never have a relationship again, but he wanted her as a friend. No, needed her as a friend. It was a selfish want, but nothing made sense without Remy in his life. It took her a year to stop avoiding places he went. It took another two years for her to have a conversation with him. When she finally seemed herself around him, she’d begun dating. And this past year, when things were good between them, Asher watched Remy fall in love with someone else.

At first, he was happy for her. Until he met the bastard and knew Damon wasn’t who he said he was. A full investigation revealed the truth about the con man. As much as Asher didn’t want to hurt Remy, he would protect her. Always.

“You need to calm down,” Boone Knight said in a clipped voice, breaking into Asher’s thoughts. Boone was a powerhouse of a guy with neat dark hair who was usually quick to smile. But right now, Boone turned his head and set his hard blue eyes on Asher. “You’re drawing attention.”

On Asher’s other side was Rhett West. His features had always been hard, and Rhett carried heaviness and darkness with him. The man was lethal, both in the military and out of it. They were both Asher’s closest childhood friends and fellow detectives. “Where is the goddamn arrest warrant?” Asher bit off.

“Remy will never forgive you if you act before having it,” Rhett shot back quietly.

Asher restrained the curses sitting on his lips and glanced back at his phone, his leg bouncing a mile a minute. Rhett wasn’t wrong. Asher had broken Remy’s heart once. He couldn’t act rashly. His instincts had gotten him through the police academy, then hired at the FBI, and now back in Stoney Creek working alongside his buddies as a detective. Those same instincts were what had him investigating Damon Lane. It only took days to realize something was wrong, but it took weeks to gather enough evidence against Lane to go to the prosecutor.

And Asher knew Remy needed that proof too.

One call. That’s what they waited for. The month-long investigation had finally delivered Damon Lane’s real name, Kyle Fanning. And Remy wasn’t his first victim either, she was his fourth. Three previous marriages, and Fanning went by all different names.

The minister continued, “The relationship you enter into today must be grounded in the strength of your love and the power of your faith in each other.”

Asher held his tongue this time. For the briefest of glances, Remy turned her head, her gaze connecting with his. And held. Asher felt the intensity in the air between them. That had never faded, no many how many years had gone by since he last touched her. But Asher understood why she wanted to get married. For as long as he knew Remy, she had dreamed of her wedding. She told him every single detail. From the ceremony being at night under the stars, with torches lighting up the grounds. She’d shown him the exact wedding dress she wanted. He noted that this ceremony was in a church and her dress was not the one she’d dreamed of wearing. But he knew why she did this. She wanted to open up a New Age shop she’d call Black Cat’s Cauldron, and her inheritance would help make that happen. Remy believed in magic. She believed teas could bring positive energy. That herbs could heal. That burning incenses could chase away evil.

He ground his teeth and glanced down at the black screen of his phone, waiting for the damn text message to stop this wedding. Asher hunted criminals—that was his job. Most crimes he solved dealt with theft, domestic violence, and, only recently, murder. The first one to happen in town in years. But right now this crime was personal.

He came here to save Remy, but he knew he’d be stopping this wedding today. And that would devastate her. But when the time came, he’d object with or without the evidence. He just really hoped, for his life and well-being, that he had the arrest warrant and the photograph of Kyle Fanning’s last wedding.

A flash on his phone caught his attention.

Get him.

Asher jumped to his feet and growled, “Stop. I object.”

Remy turned to him, eyes huge, but for one split second, Asher swore he caught a hint of a smile. A smile that she once only gave to him. The shock of seeing her look at him with such warmth and affection stuttered his mind, until he spotted the prick next to her shift slightly. Damon still held her hand and a ring. Yeah, he was a good-looking scumbag. But Asher saw Damon for what he saw, a slimy bastard who didn’t just break hearts but left a trail of shattered women behind him.

Determined to ensure Remy wasn’t one of them, hot adrenaline pumped through Asher’s veins as he charged forward, the crowd in the pews a blur around him. Damon went to take a step back, but Asher was there a second later, grabbing him by the arms and taking him down swiftly to the ground.

“Asher!” Remy bellowed. “What are you doing?”

“Saving you from this fucker.” Asher dug his knee into Damon’s back while he reached for his cuffs. As he grabbed Damon’s wrist, he snarled, “You want to tell her the truth. Or am I going to do it?”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Damon snapped. “Get him off me.”

Around Asher, and in the deep silence of the church, he felt the weight of everyone’s gaze. After he got on the second cuff, he glanced back over his shoulder, finding Boone frowning and Rhett grinning from ear to ear. With a moment to breathe, Asher cursed softly. Perhaps he hadn’t handled this well, but he wouldn’t apologize for shit. He blew out a slow breath to steady himself and then rose, bringing Damon to his feet.

Rhett grasped Damon’s arm, pulling him back away from Remy. “And here I thought I was the one who always fucked up,” he said quietly to Asher. “Good luck dancing your way out of this.”

Next to him, Boone cringed, staring over Asher’s shoulder.

Fuck. Asher knew he had to face the inevitable, so he turned around. Tears flooded Remy’s pale face. Beside her, her bridesmaids—the blond-haired woman was Boone’s fiancée, Peyton, and the dark-haired one glaring was Boone’s sister, Kinsley. They were both wearing light purple dresses and holding Remy’s hands tight.

“You better explain yourself, and pronto, buddy,” Kinsley spat.

Peyton looked from Asher to Boone rapidly, her hazel eyes unable to find whatever they were looking for. Probably an explanation.

Asher’s heartrate began to slow. He took in the minister, Remy’s coworkers and friends in the pews. Shit.

“Asher,” Remy snapped.

He turned back, finding a thousand questions in Remy’s pretty green eyes. While he wanted to give her all the answers she needed, this was also his chance to fix the past. Asher’s leaving her was part of the reason she’d given up on all her dreams, and nearly married a con man. She’d lost everything, all because he was a stupid kid full of fear and despair.

He wasn’t that kid anymore.

Though the truth remained as it had all those years ago. Asher couldn’t give her his heart. Remy was safer and would be happier without him. But he had this one chance to right his wrongs and set her life back on the right track. No missteps this time. “We don’t have to do this here.”

She dropped Kinsley’s and Peyton’s hands and stepped forward. “Tell me. Now.”

To keep the conversation private, Asher sighed and closed the distance, becoming more aware of her trembling body. His fingers twitched to grab her, bring her close, and keep her safe until she remembered all the things she once wanted for herself. “This man isn’t Damon Lane,” he explained gently. “His name is Kyle Fanning. He’s a con man who has swindled more than three million out of his past three wives, all under different aliases.”

Before Remy could even respond, Kinsley lurched at Damon. “You motherfucker.”

Gasps came from the pews as Boone caught his sister by the waist, holding her back while Kinsley did her best to murder Damon with her bare hands. Kinsley and Remy had been best friends since they were both ankle biters, and Kinsley had distrusted Damon as much as Asher had.

The minister’s skin had turned ashen at some point, and he raised his hands to the crowd. “Please, everyone, let’s calm down.”

Remy slowly stepped closer to Damon. “This can’t be true. Damon, tell me this isn’t true.”

Asher glanced back and found the bastard’s head hanging, shoulders slumped.

“You were only after my inheritance,” Remy squeaked, tears welling in her eyes.

Asher ground his teeth against the pain in her expression and reached for her, desperate to take her away from all this shit. “I’m so sorry, Remy.”

She blinked, wobbling slightly. “Don’t be sorry,” she said to Asher without looking at him. Her gaze wasn’t focused on anything specific, so far away from there. “I’m sorry for all this. I’m sorry I believed that you loved me,” she said to Damon, and then she glanced over the crowd behind Asher in the pews. “Most of all, I’m sorry I wasted all your time today.” She took one final look at Asher, her heartbreak seeping into the air between them, and then she grabbed the hem of her dress and ran down the aisle.

Asher cursed and chased after her, meeting her by the big oak tree outside. He grabbed her arm. “Remy.”

She whirled around, tears flooding her face. “Why did it have to be you? Boone or Rhett could have stopped the wedding, why did it have to be you?”

Asher released her arm slowly. “Because this is what I do.”

“Hurt me?”

The bitterness in her voice took his breath away. And yet, he deserved her wrath. “No, Remy,” he countered gently, “I protect you.” He took a step forward.

She shook her head, stepping back. “Just don’t. Stay away from me. Just leave me alone!” Her dress rustled and brushed across his legs as she ran away.

It occurred to him then that even though he knew he did the right thing by stopping the wedding today, he’d forever be remembered as the guy who broke her heart, not once, but twice.

Dangerous Love Reading Order

Naughty Stranger
Wicked Sinner